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NERA Business Meeting Minutes
March 15, 2022 (virtual)

In attendance:  Matt Wilson (Past Chair-WVU), Puneet Srivastava (Maryland), Jody Jellison (Massachusetts), Margaret Smith (Cornell AES), Darrell Donahue (WVU), Calvin Keeler (Delaware), Jason White (Connecticut-New Haven), Jessica Leahy (Maine), Anton Bekkerman (UNH), Jan Nyrop (Cornell AgriTech), Anna Katharine Mansfield (Cornell), Blair Siegfried (Penn State), Bill Hoffman (USDA-NIFA), Rubella Goswami (USDA-NIFA), Chris Pritsos (WAAESD-UNR), Mario Machado (UVM-Fellow), Alicia Coleman (UMass-Fellow), Bret Hess (WAAESD Exec Dir), David Leibovitz (NERA)


Meeting administration – Matt Wilson and NERA

  • Rick Rhodes (NERA Executive Director) was not feeling well and could not attend this meeting.  Rick sends his regards to the Directors.

  • The USDA will host the first public meeting of the inaugural Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production on March 23-24, 2022.  The public – including urban producers– is encouraged to attend.

  • The agenda for this meeting was approved unanimously.

  • The minutes of December 15, 2021 NERA meeting were approved unanimously.


Multistate Activities Committee – Jan Nyrop (Report and recommendations enclosed)

  • The MAC approved the following requests to write:

    • NE18940: A regional network of social, behavioral, and economic food systems research, 10/1/22-9/30/27. Submitted by Cristina Connolly, UConn

    • NE18946: Green Stormwater Infrastructure, 10/1/22-9/30/27. Submitted by Christopher C. Obropta (Rutgers) and Michael Dietz (UConn)

  • The MAC recommends to NERA, the approval of the following peer reviewed proposals:

    • NE_TEMP2249: Sustainable and Inclusive Rural Economic Development to Enhance Housing, Health, Entrepreneurship, and Equity, 10/2022 – 09/2027 [Renewal of NE1749, AA: Peggy Brennan – Rutgers] [Primary reviewer: Jan Nyrop]

    • NE_TEMP2251: Tourism Resilience and Community Sustainability: Adaptation and Recovery of Rural Businesses and Destinations, 10/2022 – 09/2027 [New project, AA and Primary reviewer: Matt Wilson – WVU]

    • These two peer reviewed proposals were approved by NERA and will be approved as multistate projects in NIMSS.

  •  ESS/Northeast Excellence in Multistate Research Award selection

    • The Northeast has not won this award in a long time.

    • The MAC recommends supporting NE1962 (Outdoor Recreation) as the 2022 nominee.

    • Matt Wilson (WVU) serves as administrative adviser and confirms this has been an active group in this project cycle.

    • The group is working toward publishing a book that describes its research and impacts.

    • NERA unanimously approves the nomination of NE1962 as the 2022 recipient.

  • ESS/Northeast Excellence in Leadership Award selection

    • The MAC recommends nominating Jody Jellison (UMass) for this award in 2022.

    • Jody served an extended term on the NERA Executive committee, chaired the ESCOP Science and Technology Committee, and represented the Northeast on a national stage.

    • NERA fully approves the nomination of Jody Jellison as the 2022 recipient.

  • NRSP_TEMP1 (Multistate Research Information Management and Impact Communications, 10/1/22-9/30/27. [Renewal of NRSP1, Northeast AA: Bill Miller, Massachusetts]

    • This is a “capacity/core” designated NRSP as opposed to a new/emerging initiative.  The proposal is not written with the intent for NRSP1 to sunset after its five-year term.

    • NRSP1 is off-the-top national research support project funding that supports NIMSS and the Multistate Research Fund Impacts Writing program.

    • NERA unanimously approves the NRSP_TEMP1 proposal.

  • Request to Write process discussion

    • The MAC will be discussing the Northeast’s “request to write” requirements at a future meeting. We often receive submissions that look like full project proposals rather than just the issues and justification section – the additional information is helpful.  NERA will scan the other regions for their request to write requirements and set this discussion topic aside for the next MAC meeting.


NIFA Update – Rubella Goswami and Bill Hoffman

  • NIFA Director Carrie Castille is leaving on April 9 to join the University of Tennessee.  An interim NIFA Director period should last up to one year.

  • AFRI foundational RFA has been developed.  Three new program areas are included and new opportunities for climate change research.  NIFA is organizing webinars related to these programs.

  • Upcoming hires being advertised: 

    • NPL positions for Social Sciences and Plant Protection division

    • Program specialists

  • Coming soon:  AFRI Education and Workforce Development, pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, experiential education for undergraduates.


Station Research Profile:  Agriculture and Nanotechnology – Jason White, Director, CT AES


NERA and ESCOP Updates – Matt Wilson

  • Summer joint meeting:  June 5-7, Portland, Maine (Face-to-face only, no virtual component)

  • NERA Leadership changes, replacing Mark Hutton

    • Puneet Srivastava (Officer-at-large) will shift to incoming chair

    • NERA is seeking a new Officer-at-large.  We are seeking volunteers or nominations soon but not necessarily during this meeting.

  • ESCOP and the Northeast

    • Matt Wilson (WVU) will serve as the ESCOP Chair 2022-23, putting the Northeast in a leadership position.

    • Business practices and organizational structure ESS will be reviewed in the coming year.

    • ESCOP Budget and Legislative Committee is exploring a “moonshot” ask and has an active call for ideas, seeking research initiatives or legislation to target in the next moonshot.

    • 2022 Unified Ask was presented at the CARET/AHS meeting at the beginning of March

      • Jody reflected that during hill visits at CARET/AHS, legislators asked:  which should we support, infrastructure funding or capacity funding?


Final report, Northeast Ecosystems Services Inventory – Alicia Coleman and Mario Machado, NEED/NERA Postdoctoral Fellows

  • NERA and NEED funded two fellowships to conduct an ecosystems services inventory and assessment, to inform the design and audience of a series of virtual listening sessions and a Northeast Ecosystems Services Symposium.  A slide deck will be enclosed with these meeting notes.

  • Scope of work included:

    • Identifying the organizational scope of relevant programs and policies

    • Document ag-related practices that procure ecosystem functions/services

    • Report the breadth of direct and indirect incentives/rewards offered to ag-related producers for ecosystem function/service practices

    • Describe producers’ strategies to advertise function/service practices and boost revenue streams

  • 1,300 programs in four categories are included in the generated database:

    • Food, farming, agriculture

    • Working forests and woodlands

    • Fisheries, aquaculture, and shellfish operations

    • Supporting landscapes and systems

  • Recommendations:  Increasing farm profitability and sustainability

    • Producers and land managers operate according to the "safety-first" principle and are often risk-averse. In order to be successful, practices and programs must sufficiently and sustainably offset these risks in concrete ways.

  • Recommendations:  Positioning agriculture and forestry as primary leaders in mitigating climate change

    • Programs are structured to either incentivize a single ecosystem service or multiple layered services.  Project design should account for those strengths and weaknesses as well as the potential to scale practices from individual farms to multifunctional landscapes.

  • Recommendations:  Building resilience of rural and urban communities

    • Very few programs reviewed in this assessment directly address resilience and fewer directly address resilience beyond the farm scale.

  • Recommendations:  Increasing the appeal of agricultural and working lands professions to a wide range of young people

    • Ecosystem service provisioning programs for young and beginner farmers, while important, may not be enough to entice young people into working lands-related careers.  Programs that couple ecosystem service provisioning with incentives that directly support livelihood provisioning such as cash-in-hand (basic income), land access/acquisition, free education/professional development, and healthcare, may help.

  • A deliverable final report is set for completion in late March.

  • Front-facing Ecosystem services database will be developed and made available to the public.

  • Alicia and Mario are both conducting postdoctoral research at NERA institutions (UConn Applied Forest Ecology Lab and UVM Gund Institute for Environment).


Guided discussion with the ESCOP Chair – Chris Pritsos, Director of Nevada AES, Associate Dean of Research, University of Nevada, Reno


This meeting adjourned at 11:58 am ET.

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